We’ve been watching a pear tree in a neighbor’s weekend home fill with pears to the point of wondering if the branches were going to hold up to the weight of the fruit.
“Feel free to come pick pears when they’re ready, I’m never here when it’s time and hate for them to go to waste!” Ray said. We’ve been patiently waiting for them to be ready.
This tree is enormous, and there must’ve been at least a thousand pears on it – probably more. When our friends Stephen and LaVerne Bright said, “We’re going to pick the pears, want to join us?” I jumped at the chance.
Not knowing when the fruit would be ready, I figured fruit-picking is more fun with friends… especially tall friends that can reach higher branches than I can. My husband handed me a handmade shopping basket he picked up long ago in Michoacán Mexico and sent me on my pear-pickin’ way.
We approached the big, beautiful tree, anticipating needing a taller ladder to reach the uppermost little gems… only to find the tree was stripped bare. Not a single fruit was on the previously pear-packed tree, except for the remains of one that a bird must’ve eaten.
No pears on the freshly mowed grass, either. A few broken branches, and it was almost like pear season never happened. We were so perplexed and disappointed.
Stephen and LaVerne were gracious in sharing some of the pears they’d previously picked, so we didn’t completely miss out on fresh local pears this season.
The pears reminded me of those we’d been gifted in previous years from neighbors with trees in their yards that produced more pears than they could eat or give away.
Looking like small apples and tasting almost like melon with hints of vanilla, these pears were so sweet and juicy that they were unlike any store-bought pear I’ve ever eaten. Asian Pear Trees seem to thrive in the high desert of far West Texas. If you managed to end up with more pears than you can handle this season, you can core them and freeze for later use.
Records indicate that pears were cultivated about 5000 years ago in China, where they believed pears were a sign of immortality. In Greek and Roman mythology, pears are sacred to three goddesses: Hera (Juno to the Romans), Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) and Pomona, an Italian goddess of gardens and harvests.
About 800 years ago, pears were called “a gift of the gods” in Homer’s The Odyessy. Thanks to the fiber, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants found in pears, pears give the gift of good nutrition.
A medium-sized pear has 6 grams of fiber – 22 percent of the daily recommended amount for us, and this fiber has been shown to help lower “bad” cholesterol levels, and also aid in weight loss. Twelve percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C is in each medium pear.
I could go on and on about the health benefits of pears but I won’t… just be sure and eat the skin of the pear as that is where most of the nutrients are.
There are more than 5,000 varieties of pear trees out there. Since each pear tree can produce fruit for up to 100 years, I’m looking forward to many opportunities to pick local pears in the future.
Last year, I found my favorite recipe for pears if I’m not eating them raw – caramelized pears. I can’t even explain the deliciousness of caramelized pears. Caramelizing is a cooking method that converts the starches in foods to sugar, which produces a deep, rich caramel sauce around the pieces of fruit.
You can caramelize any firm fruit, but steer clear of berries because they are too soft. I like serving our warm caramelized pears over cold vanilla ice cream, preferably homemade.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 4 medium pears, cored and cut into large dice (about 4 cups)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional – I don’t use them)
Melt butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When it foams, sprinkle sugar over top and cook until bubbling and dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add pears and cook, stirring rarely, until mixture is caramelized and pears just begin to release their juices. Gently fold in cloves and serve over your ice cream.